Managing for Innovation as an Expat 

January 2023 

Innovation management is a specific management system that innovation can flourish in. This process can help expat leaders nurture new ideas, and ensure their team take action. Innovation management has been proven to create long-lasting advantages for businesses and employees. All of this can be achieved by taking a different approach to traditional management principles. 

Some of the biggest benefits your team and company can have from innovation management include:

  • Creating a lasting effect for your business and standing out as an innovative business
  • Building stronger employee morale
  • Resolving recurrent issues with an innovative or creative solution
  • Increasing productivity with new processes
Before you introduce an innovation management process to your team you need to assess if you have a supportive management style. As the manager, you need to ensure your team feel valued. Offering encouragement as the manager. Without this innovation management would be harder to achieve. To help you understand how you can approach this, we have broken the process down into 5 tangible models: 
Your competency as a manager and the competency of your company will all come into play here. You need to have a clear understanding of your strengths and any unused capabilities of your team. Other Competencies include being ahead of the competition, or an inclusive working environment. In order to manage for innovation, you need to fully harness your set of capabilities. Directing and organizing these skill sets will provide the market solutions you need.  
  ‘The right structure is greater than the sum of its parts.’ The structure is all about the systems and processes you have in place. Working alongside your set of capabilities, the structure you have in place is what allows you to control and manage innovation as an expat. Empowering your team with fewer boundaries, allows them to create and strive for efficient and powerful ideas.
Without an innovative culture, you could be working backwards. Fostering innovation takes a culture that promotes it. As the manager, you need to encourage your team's behavior to aid innovation. Consider implementing an evaluation method, that allows any employee to submit and progress an idea without the fear or judgment of failure. Failure is part of the process but if not managed correctly can stop ideas in their tracks. 
Encouraging your team for ongoing learning will also help expand your teams’ capabilities. Personal development and professional learning will ensure your team keep opportunities and fresh ideas in their minds. 
Planning for success in a management role is how your team and organization will reach their goals. You need the right approach and strategy in place to get your team's innovations off the ground.  Allocating the right resources is crucial when managing innovation. This is why careful thought strategies need to be in place.

While having all the right practical steps in place for innovation management. As an expat you will also have a few other obstacles to navigate. This can include language barriers, and culture shock to name a few. 

Studies show that companies that regularly send managers abroad, choose those who have the right capabilities but are also culturally literate, with the ability to adapt and navigate a new culture. Keeping cultural flexibility in mind will ensure you stay open when navigating your leadership role. 

In order to maximize your success in managing for innovation, understanding the common challenges faced by other managers and organizations will help you effectively plan and navigate for success. 
A hierarchal top-down management approach can stifle innovation before it gets up and running. This can lead to a passive workforce only reaching their set expectations. Real innovation can only happen when your team are looking to exceed expectations.  
Without the right tools and processes in place, your team will struggle to achieve their goals. As the manager you have the responsibility to support your team with the resources and capabilities, they need in order to foster innovation. 
Without a clear vision creating something new is unlikely, as the manager if you have a clear vision of what you want to achieve. Your team will be more likely to commit and support you in the efforts.  
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